The Digestive System
‘ALL DISEASE BEGINS IN THE GUT.’
The human digestive system is a complex series of organs and glands that metabolize food. In order to metabolize the foods we eat, our body has to break down the foods into smaller molecules that it can process. After being metabolized, the body also has the job to excrete waste.
- Alivary glands
- Small intestine
- Large intestine
Why the digestive system is the first one we address?
- The digestive system is the center of the immune system.
- The digestive system, nervous system, immune system, and hormone-producing endocrine system all function together in an interconnected way.
- Nutritional deficiency can result in poor digestion when there is an ineffective or incomplete assimilation of nutrients.
- The digestive system is inhabited by several hundred species of bacteria and microbiota that influence health and disease patterns.
- Various chronic diseases actually begin in the gut. We have all heard by now the term ‘leaky gut’. This is where certain foods actually create an immunologic response that can eventually lead to autoimmunity.
Other systems intrinsically connected
The brain, the enteric nervous system, the immune system, and the skin.
COLOR ASSOCIATED WITH THE DIGESTIVE SYSTEM: YELLOW
Spices good for the digestive system: ginger, fennel, black pepper, cayenne, mint, cinnamon, nutmeg, dill, turmeric, cumin, coriander, ajwain, anise, lemon balm, caraway, cardamom, psyllium, chia, chlorella
Essential oils: ginger, peppermint, cardamom, fennel, Digive (Young Livingblend: juniper, lemongrass, anise, tarragon, ginger, peppermint, patchouli)
Teas/Herbs: Melissa, chamomile, turmeric, cumin, fennel, mint, marshmallow root, slippery elm bark, lemon balm
Class of botanicals good for digestion: Carminatives - prevents or relieves gas and are used to help the digestive tract.
Functional Foods that aid in a healthy microbiome
Also known as resistant starch, a type of starch (inulin) that resists digestion in the large and small intestine and is broken down in the colon. Did you know that we are, in fact, more microbial than we are human cells? Our gut contains 100 trillion microorganisms. These friends with benefits play a critical role in digestive function, protecting against infections, aiding in nutrient absorption and immune function. Prebiotics are actually indigestible fibers that these microbes feed on. These become the substrate for the probiotics to feed on resulting in a proliferation of good gut bacteria.
Top Prebiotic Foods
- Raw Chicory root: 64.6% prebiotic fiber by weight
- Raw Jicama: 37% prebiotic fiber by weight
- Raw Jerusalem artichoke: 31.5% prebiotic fiber by weight
- Raw Dandelion greens: 24.3 prebiotic fiber by weight
- Raw Garlic: 17.5% prebiotic fiber by weight
- Raw Leek: 11.7 prebiotic fiber by weight
- Raw Onion: 8.6% prebiotic fiber by weight
- Cooked Onion: 5% prebiotic fiber by weight
- Raw Asparagus: 5% prebiotic fiber by weight
- Raw Banana: 1% prebiotic fiber by weight
Requirement to Achieve a Daily Serving of Prebiotic Foods
- Raw Chicory root: 9.3g (about 1/3 oz)
- Raw Jerusalem artichoke: 19g (3/4 oz)
- Raw Dandelion greens: 24.7g (just under 1 oz)
- Raw Garlic: 34.3g (1.2 oz)
- Raw Leek: 51.3g (1.8oz)
- Raw Onion: 69.8g (2.5 oz)
- Cooked Onion: 120g (1/4 pound)
- Raw Asparagus: 120g (1/4 pound)
- Raw Banana: 600g (1.3 pounds)
- Jicama: 6g in 1 cup (226 grams)
Most Americans do not get enough fiber. I recommend aiming for 12 grams per day either from real foods, a supplement, or a combination thereof.
Add to this list chestnut flour, radicchio, jicama, Yacon syrup, honey, raw apple cider vinegar, and other sources of resistant starch.
The very definition of this word says it all. PRO - on behalf of; and BIOS - life. Probiotics have a favorable or health-promoting effect on living cells and tissues. For example Lactobacillus acidophilus present in the gastrointestinal tract is probiotic because its presence inhibits the growth of harmful bacteria such as Salmonella and Listeria.
Top Probiotic Foods
- Any vegetables or liquids that have gone through a fermentation process.
Acidophilus and other probiotic bacteria secrete antiviral, antibacterial and anti fungal chemicals.
Probiotics form a physical barrier to hinder invasion of bacteria and yeasts.
Probiotics like acidophilus create an acidic microenvironment which promotes iron and other mineral absorption.
Foods that aid in cleansing the colon:
- Apples/Apple Cider Vinegar - This simple fruit is a powerful cleansing fruit. High in fiber it promotes healthy digestion. The pectin content acts as a thickening compound helping to root out built-up toxins inside the gut and strengthen the intestinal lining.
- Avocados - Avocados are rich in fiber containing both double and insoluble. It aids in promoting healthy bowel movements and cleanses the colon. The rich omega-3 fats help to lubricate the walls of the intestines, which in turn prevents the toxins from sticking to the walls and they get flushed out.
- Flax, Chia and Sunflower seeds - Unique in their nutritional profiles, both flax, and chia contain fats and fiber that help promote healthy digestion and a colon cleanse. These are truly functional foods as they do many things. They have great, healthy fats, are rich in vitamins and minerals, and contain anti-inflammatory Omega-3s.
- Chlorophyll-Rich greens - Green veggies and fruits tend to promote healthy digestion and daily colon cleanse as well. Spinach, green olives, asparagus, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, celery, collardgreens sea vegetables, leeks, peas, Swiss chard and many other green veggies are all high in chlorophyll, cleansing your digestive tract and liver. Fat-soluble chlorophyll adheres to the lining of the intestinal wall and retards bacterial growth, removes putrefactive bacteria from the colon, and helps heal the mucosal lining of the gastrointestinal tract. ****Spirulina, sea vegetables and chlorella are excellent heavy metals evacuators, as well as cilantro.
- Clean, purified water and sea salt, or better yet, Himalayan salt - A hydrated colon is a healthy colon. Perpetual dehydration can lead to constipation and toxic build up. It’s important to drink plenty of pure, chlorine-free water every day. The rule of thumb is drinking half your body weight in ounces every day for maximum hydration and cleansing. It will vary according to your activity and the environment you are in.
- Fermented foods - The human digestive system is composed of a vast network of beneficial microbiota that are responsible for digesting food, absorbing nutrients, thwarting harmful bacteria, and eliminating toxins. When those bacteria get thrown out of balance, or reduced through things like antibiotics, digestive health can greatly suffer. The longer this occurs, the more severe the damage becomes. In order to offset the damage to your gut flora caused by environmental toxins, food chemicals, processed foods, and many other factors, it’s important to supplement with plenty of probiotic-rich foods like kimchi, sauerkraut, yogurt (plain), and fermented drinks like kefir and kombucha.
Other Beneficial Foods
- Cruciferous vegetables - These on average contain 25-40 percent of your daily fiber requirement. Eating these veggies promotes detoxification, even when you are not on an official cleanse.
- Garlic - This root herb is very beneficial for cleansing the colon. It has antiviral, antibacterial and anti-parasitic properties that remove toxins, pathogens, and parasites from the digestive tract. Garlic also reduces inflammation for improved digestion, absorption of food nutrients and elimination of wastes and toxins. Garlic stimulates the liver into producing detoxification enzymes that help filter toxic residue from the digestive tract.
- Aloe Vera - Aloe vera is one of those multi-purpose, functional foods that can do so much for the human body, both outside and inside. The juice has anti-inflammatory properties and can improve digestion as well as detox the body.
- Green tea - In a detox, most people are looking to not only cleanse, but also to lose weight. Green tea is the perfect constituent for that. Green tea contains lots of antioxidants, which cleanse as well as improve bowel function. Green tea also detoxifies the liver. The active ingredient is catechin, which increases liver function.
- Lemon - Lemon is excellent for cleansing the system because lemons can rid the large intestine of waste matter build up and act as an antiseptic, which hinders the growth of bad microorganisms. The simple practice of drinking warm water and lemon every morning will help to detoxify and cleanse the system. Lemon juice supports the liver in its cleansing processes. Lemon juice also contains high levels of vitamin C, which are one of the best detox vitamins around as it transforms toxins into digestible material that can get flushed out of the system. Vitamin C is also needed by the body to make a very important substance celled glutathione. Glutathione helps the liver detoxify harmful chemicals.
- Cranberries - Cleanse your body from harmful bacteria and viruses that may be lingering in your urinary tract with cranberries since they contain antibiotic and antiviral substances.
- Grapefruit - Grapefruit is an excellent intestinal and liver detoxifier due to the pectin fiber. Pectin binds to cholesterol, thereby cleansing the blood, as well as heavy metals and helps escort them out of the body. Due to its antiviral compound, pectin also cleanses harmful viruses out of the body.
- Sea vegetables - Seaweed could be the most under-appreciated and underrated vegetable in the western world. Studies abound showing how seaweed binds to radioactive waste in the body. Seaweed also binds to heavy metals to eliminate them from the body. Besides this, they are powerhouses of minerals and trace minerals - something the human body cannot live without.
Vitamins - A, C, D, B
Foods high in vitamin C - citrus, berries, tomatoes, peppers, broccoli.
Foods high in vitamin D - egg yolks, saltwater fish, liver, SUNSHINE!
Movement + Exercise
Exercise helps stimulate intestinal contractibility; thereby helping the passage of stool through the colon. This is where deep diaphragmatic breathing is especially helpful. Reflux occurs when your stomach contents move backward into your esophagus. Studies have shown that breathing exercises that strengthen the diaphragm muscles may prevent reflux by reinforcing the barrier between the two organs.
- Knees to chest pose- lying on your back on the mat with knees drawn up into the belly with deep breathing.
- Twists - twist positions aid greatly digestion.
- Childs pose = compresses abdomen, massages internal organs. Start in a kneeling position. Drop your butt toward your heels as you stretch the rest of your body down and forward. In the fully stretched position, rest your arms in a relaxed position along the floor, rest your stomach comfortably on top of your thighs, and rest your forehead on the mat. You should feel a mild stretch in your shoulders and buttocks and down the length of your spine and arms.
“He that believes in Me, out of his BELLY shall flow rivers of Living Water.” John 7:38
Affirmations for a healthy gut
Reflective of possibly clutching onto fear. This could be due to possibly not really trusting in the process of life.
Affirmation: I breathe fully and freely. I am safe. I trust in the process of life.
Perhaps experiencing fear or anxiety about a recent or coming event.
Affirmation: I digest and assimilate all new experiences peacefully and joyfully.
Criticism, disappointment, failure, shame, reactive in nature.
Affirmation: Divine right is always taking place in my life. I believe only good will come from each experience. It is safe to let go and not be reactive in nature.
Resistance to change: Fear, anger, and hatred. The liver is the seat of anger and rage.
Affirmation: My mind is cleansed and free. I leave the past and move into the new. All is well.
STOMACH AND INTESTINAL PROBLEMS:
Dread, fear of the new, or not feeling nourished.
Affirmation: I digest life with ease.
Our bodies are breathtaking in their intelligence. If we pay attention to our feelings and stay connected within, it’s easier for wellness to be achieved as we consume the right foods that will bring about healing. There will be more of seamlessness in the process, instead of fighting against negative thinking.
Once you get over the initial shock of the idea, to do a coffee enema before a detox is actually a very good idea. Our colons are clogged up. In order for things to flow well during a guided detoxification, it makes sense to unplug that which is the gateway to excretion. Therefore, doing any kind of a cleanse without first cleansing the colon and kidneys is like trying to flush a big load down a clogged toilet. Many of the toxins would be reabsorbed from the intestines and the kidneys could also be over-burdened.
I do understand for many this is a very strange idea and maybe very foreign. There is material in the Journal for further reading if you are interested.